Stock-Picking Lessons From a Pig Farmer

Editor's note: This was originally published on RealMoney. It is being republished as a bonus for readers.

Today I want to introduce you to one of my oldest friends. I first met this fine fellow back in 1988 as a rookie stockbroker. I will spare you the horror stories of cold-calling with stock ideas from the research department. They gave us really cool scripts to call potential clients with, and they were effective to a degree.

The problem is the stock ideas were terrible. It was hard to build a practice selling stocks that had terrible fundamentals and were overpriced. My frustration level was high.

At the time, a man who became something of a lifelong mentor gave me an old photocopy of a 1978 article from Forbes magazine by John Train. It told the story of an investor who was having a hard time making money in the market. His broker introduced him to a client who had done extraordinarily well over the years.

He met Mr. Womack, the pig farmer. Mr. Womack had been investing for 40 years and was consistently profitable. His secret was simple. He waited until he read in the news that the market was making new lows and all the experts were predicting the end of the world. He would select a package of stocks that had fallen below $10 a share in profitable companies that paid dividends.

When the market eventually recovered in a year or two and the news was full of ebullient predictions, he would drive back to town and sell them all. He thought of stocks like buying pigs. He bought them when they were cheap and sold them when they were expensive. Besides, as Mr. Womack pointed out, you do not have to feed stocks, and pigs do not pay dividends. That article is now 30 years old, and the advice is just as good today as it was then.

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